My column this week is about the multiplayer aspect of Dragon Age: Inquisition. Also, allow me to head off some nitpicking and address something that didn’t fit into this column. (The satirical “Advice of Screwtape” style kind of boxes you in sometimes.)
In the column I claimed that people weren’t asking for multiplayer in Dragon Age. I’m sure that in reality there are lots of people who found themselves thinking, “Man, I wish I could play this with my friends.” However, this is nothing like what we were given. What you probably want is an intimate and mechanically interesting experience with one or two friends. What you get is a shitty grindfest with rando internet strangers. (Unless you and three friends available at the same time on the same platform.) To be fair, some people really do like that. But that’s not what people had in mind when they dreamed of playing Dragon Age co-op.
This takes us right back to the very heart of the Bioware outrage: They turned their back on their original fans in order to court a larger demographic. That’s fine, but they keep pretending they’re Old Bioware. So when we gripe about all the innumerable ways in which they are failing to deliver on that we end up getting shouted down by the much larger crowd of New Bioware fans who care nothing for the pre-Mass Effect 2 games.
EA marketing makes this worse by framing every new annoyance as “giving in to public demand”. That’s slick, because I can’t prove there aren’t millions of people asking to pay for stuff that used to be free. And there will always be people ready to make the “you don’t have to play it” defense. Bioware is great at making characters we love, which makes some people difficult and defensive when you try to criticize the game those characters inhabit. People are always saying tedious crap like, “This game had Mordin Solus in it, so your argument is invalid.” Meanwhile EA is running an online store behind a Mordin mask and laughing at both of us.
It really does make me mad.
|Let’s make our world seem more vibrant and lived-in by having tons of NPCs around. And also let’s completely ruin the effect by having them stand like statues in bowling-pin formation.|
Here is my take: This business with bits of the single-player game feeling free-to-play is not an accident. EA is just trying to boil the frog a little more slowly this timeYes, I’m aware that the “boil a frog” analogy is not scientifically sound. But it’s a really useful analogy.. In some future Dragon Age game we’ll have the same “power unlocks new game areas” mechanic, only you’ll need to grind a bit to get the power you need and you’ll be able to buy power directly. This is just the first phase of getting us used to free-to-play mechanics in a $60 AAA game.
Yeah, this sounds kind of conspiracy theory-ish. But it’s the only way these mechanics make sense to me.
 Yes, I’m aware that the “boil a frog” analogy is not scientifically sound. But it’s a really useful analogy.
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